In what has turned out to be a brutal year for Hollywood, "Star Wars" fans and alumni are mourning the loss of Carrie Fisher, who succumbed to complications from a heart attack suffered a few days prior. Initial reports suggested that the actress — who played the iconic Princess Leia Organa in the massively popular intergalactic movie series — was in stable condition. Her sudden passing this morning was thus met with an ever more distressing shock.
Carrie Fisher had an almost love-hate relationship with the Princess Leia character and the Star Wars franchise, which is now owned by Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS). Although tremendously talented and accomplished, Carrie Fisher will forever be linked to Star Wars. From an actress' perspective, it glosses over, perhaps ignores, the performances of more artistically valid roles. At the same time, we would likely not know Fisher were it not for her portrayal of Princess Leia.
Rightfully, Disney issued a statement in which they expressed sorrow and shock over losing Fisher. However, one cannot help wonder what impact this will have on Disney, and more specifically, DIS stock. The iconic company made a massive bid for the Star Wars franchise, and it is one that they intend on milking in perpetuity. But with Carrie Fisher no longer able to carry forward, this will severely test the creativity of the Star Wars' production and writing team.
Unlike the loss of actor Paul Walker from the "Fast and Furious" series, there's no easy way of writing off Princess Leia. She is the heart of Star Wars. This is all the more evident in that while the Star Wars spinoff "Rogue One" debuted to the top of the box office, its opening week numbers paled in comparison to last year's "The Force Awakens." This more or less confirms that the overwhelming majority of fans are demanding the original characters, and not so much derivative creations.
According to HLN, Carrie Fisher filmed some scenes for the upcoming Star Wars film, set for a December 2017 release. It's unclear just how far along she got in filming, and whether CGI manifestations are necessary to complete her character's story. Either way, this is a major challenge for DIS stock. Disney has spent a considerable amount of money for the Star Wars franchise, and any forced changes to the storyline could trigger financial consequences.